288 pages, 20cm x 28cm
2020, Chartwell

Legendary Guitars: An Illustrated Guide

My idea for this began with a timeline of as many mid-century guitars introduced between 1950 and 1969 that I could fit comfortably within such a book’s pages. From there, I thought I’d branch off to show how these instruments have influenced the design, the looks, and the playability of more recent electric guitars, right up to those of today.

I intended to call the book Electric Guitar Evolution, which seems to convey what it’s about, but the US publisher felt that Legendary Guitars was better. So, Legendary it was, and Legendary it is.

The result is a sweeping voyage through some of the best known guitars ever—nearly all the Teles and Lesters and Strats and 335s and so on you could want—alongside some of the significant also-rans from the period, which range from Ampeg to Yamaha and from Danelectro to Teisco, with much, much more between and around all those.

Inside the book, you’ll find the guitars, the styles, and the developments that made these instruments drive classic rock’n’roll, jazz, blues, country, and more. And alongside those originals are some choice examples of more recent instruments, to show how today’s makers produce fresh interpretations that draw on the 50s and 60s templates. That means everything from accurate (and pricey) vintage remakes and artist models through to the broader influences and mashup qualities of modern retro creations.

I put together the biggest collection of memorabilia ever included in one of my books, so you’ll be pleased to know there’s a heap of tasty catalogue pages, period ads, and other paper-based goodies that I figured would help convey the vibe of the different eras on display throughout Legendary. And each year from 1950 to 1969 starts with a simple spread that highlights key events from world news, aiming to give context for the instruments that follow, with illustrations that shed light on the design trends of the times—often reflected in the guitars themselves.

Anyway, I’ll finish here with three quotes from my interview archive that I put on the back of the book:

“Finding ways to use the same guitar that people have been using for 50 years, to make sounds no one has heard before, is truly what gets me off.” —Jeff Beck

“You can give somebody my brown Princeton and a ’59 Burst and a curly cable, and they’re going to make it sound like them. You can give me their Epiphone and a Line 6, and I’ll twist the knobs and eventually sound somewhat like me. It’s still all about someone’s fingers on a fretboard.” —Joe Bonamassa

“We’re always talking about Gibsons and Fenders and so on, but I really love cheap guitars, too. I grew up with all of them around—Hofner, Futurama, Burns, Watkins, Harmony. So I have great affection for extremely tacky and cheap guitars as well as the beautiful ones.” —Mark Knopfler